Proposal Personality Profile, Part 3: Dummies and the Clients Who Employ Them

Proposal Personality Profile, Part 3: Dummies and the Clients Who Employ Them

Today’s show is about making it extremely easy for busy, distracted, or low ability people to still choose you.

Want to grab a spot for a free 15-minute Quick Consult in New Orleans?

We’re trying to simplify how you get fast, accurate data on where your proposals stand.

To that end, we’re bringing our Proposal Improvement Techniques Algorithm (making it a PITA – solving your pain in their ask) to New Orleans.

How does it work? To start, make an appointment with us (using the calendar below). We confidentially analyze a couple sample proposals that you bring. The patent-pending algorithm then uses the statistical knowledge gained from thousands of proposals to determine how you’re doing compared to typical proposals.

It’s all strictly confidential and there’s no negativity. You’ll get a customized result that shows you where you’re better than most. If you are interested in learning if you have areas that could use some tightening up, we can provide those. But we’re happy – and sometimes it’s actually more productive – to focus on the bright spots.

If you’d like, you can receive a final report of your strengths. You might want to use this as a way of encouraging your team (and, hey, you might want to show it to upper management). At your request, we’ll also include how much of an improvement in revenue and win rates you can realistically expect from incorporating more of the proposal best practices. This includes probability distributions of the upper and lower bounds for your exact situation.

If you’ve been thinking about getting training, but have been a little nervous about asking the leadership team, this is the type of data that helps you make the case for training.

You’ll also find out your Price Leverage – an estimate of the amount of bargaining power your proposals give you with your clients.

We’re also happy to use the appointment time getting you started on applying the key points from my talks (differentiators, content libraries and/or gathering client intelligence) to your situation.

Or maybe you already suspect it’s about time to get your proposals a tune up, but you’re worried you don’t have the budget. We can share some tips, trends and templates for getting Sales and/or Marketing to contribute their budget.

Or just have Dwight tell you his favorite joke! It’s all very low-key.

(And if you’re not going to be in New Orleans, just send us an email and we can get started.)

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On with the show! Key points from today’s BulletPoints

We’ve been talking about how to appeal to selection committee members with different personalities – as defined by their drive and ability. (Click here for part 1 and part 2.) Even people who are high in ability have areas where they aren’t specialists. As Will Rogers said, “Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.”

In psychology, this is the difference between fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence. Fluid intelligence is sort of what we would think of as IQ. The ability to do complex things. Crystallized intelligence is intelligence about a specific area.

A brain surgeon is obviously extremely intelligent, but any brain surgeon would tell you to go to a foot specialist if your problem is with your foot. That’s just not what a brain surgeon does. Their crystallized intelligence is in brain surgery, not foot surgery. (This is also why the word “Dummies” in the title is definitely not meant to be taken seriously!)

It’s normal to confuse fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence in our customers. This is often the source of what’s called the halo effect, whereby if someone is good at one thing, we pretty much assume they’re good at everything. Here, we assume that, because our customers are knowledgeable people in general, they must also be knowledgeable about our products and services and jargon specifically. Logically, of course, there’s no reason that should be true. But, unless we challenge ourselves, it’s very easy to make that mistake.

People who are high in drive but low in ability are ones that I call Strivers.

Interestingly, because they have high drive, but don’t actually have matching ability, Strivers make decisions based on what are called peripheral cues. In other words, they make decisions based on things that aren’t in the message. These people are strongly influenced by authority and social proof. They also rely heavily on heuristics, or mental shortcuts, that don’t require a ton of reasoning ability.

For instance, one of the biggest ones (and a major reasons why big companies can win despite bad proposals) is the recognition heuristic. The recognition heuristic says that, if Strivers have heard of you, but not your competitors, they’ll assume you’re the best and choose you. This is where the idea of “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” comes from.

So, be sure to include prominent case studies, testimonials and other evidence from recognizable name brands, authority figures and experts.

And, if you’re thinking, “I would but where am I supposed to get those?” – you’re in good company. One of the reasons why a lot of clients include Marketing in training sessions is because they need to develop a library of persuasive evidence like this. One of the best tips for Marketing is to always submit a press release with every new deal, with each press release covering an area for which you need evidence.

Get a Clue!

If you didn’t see it before, I’ll be giving a third talk at the APMP conference – a panel called “Get a Clue! How to Win At Least 8-10% More Deals with Intelligence on Your Competition and Clients” with federal gurus Randy and Chris Richter. This goes right to the heart of how you personalize your proposal. It’s also how you figure out what they value so that you can show them that you offer more of it. If you haven’t seen it, the schedule for New Orleans is here.

Make sure you join us next time for the final video in this series, when we’ll look at how to deal with the… ugh… low drive, low ability people on your selection committee.

Until then, I wish you much success.

Chris

P. S. Got forwarded this link and want to sign up for BulletPoints yourself? Sign up here.

P. P. S. Wanna see if the jokes in the previous BulletPoints are funnier than this one? Check them out here.

P. P. S. Pils led me knue if yeure dhe one whe brock dhe kqyboard dhis merningh.

Proposal Personality Profile, Part 2

Proposal Personality Profile, Part 2

In today’s BulletPoints, we discuss the most common personality type that you’ll encounter for your proposal or presentationthe Security Guard.

And cool news to share! I’ll be doing a third talk at the APMP conference in New Orleans. More info below!

As we discussed in part 1, jury research shows that the most important factors in what jurors decide is the evidence. And the same is true in your proposal or sales presentation.

People evaluate evidence depending on where they fall in their “need for cognition.” This is a person’s drive and ability to consider and engage with complex topics and evidence.

We previously talked about Scrutinizers – people who are high in drive and high in ability. Since you’re reading this and actively working on your own to improve your proposals, you can be sure that this group includes you.

In fact, one of the great joys of being a consultant is exactly this – working with and training smart, motivated people. I don’t claim to be an expert in software for the defense industry or banking procedures or multinational outsourcing. But I do know a few things about persuasion and effective proposals. So, when I get to add my contributions to the contributions of bright, engaged proposal, sales and marketing people, it’s extremely rewarding.

Who Are These Security Guards?

People who are low in drive but high in ability are the ones that we call Security Guards. This is because they normally won’t put forth much effort, but they will spring into action if it’s absolutely required.

Security Guards are the most common personality type you’ll encounter in most large company sales and proposal activities.  Now, most people who’ve achieved those levels of responsibility would normally be both high drive and high ability. But they are so busy and overwhelmed and oftentimes frustrated by the bureaucracy that they function as a high ability, low drive Security Guard – stretched so thin that all they can do is to just try to prevent harm from occurring.

Research shows that Scrutinizers are leaders. They’re active participants in a discussion. They carry a lot of influence.

By contrast, Security Guards tend to be passive. Yet at the same time as they’re being passive, they are judging. So they’ll skim down your proposal, not actively engaging in each point that you’re making, but keeping a sort of emotional scorecard of how they feel and what they think about your proposal.

If you’ve ever heard someone say something like, “Well, I didn’t calculate the numbers myself, but what you’re saying makes sense,” that was a Security Guard at work.

As we talked about before, Scrutinizers tend to jump to a conclusion early on. This is often called the primacy bias, where the first thing you hear becomes what you believe. Scrutinizers do this because they’re actively processing the vision the proposals are presenting. So you better present a vision in your proposal! And it better correspond to what they want to achieve!

By contrast, Security Guards tend to display the recency bias. That means that whatever they heard last is what they’ll tend to support. This is probably because, when they get to the final few proposals, their brain is telling them, “Hey, dude! Enough with the skepticism. Hurry up and pick one!”

How Do We Win Over Security Guards?

There are a few things you can do to win Security Guards over.

First, like the others, they’ll listen to and follow Scrutinizers. So you need to arm the Scrutinizers on your selection committee with clear, specific, easily understood, easily remembered points in your favor.

Second, as jury research shows, evidence does matter. Now, remember, for Scrutinizers, we want to use siege evidence. (Click here to watch the previous BulletPoints on YouTube.) This is where you support the same point from multiple angles with different types of evidence, so there’s nowhere to escape to. You want your evidence to cut off their cognitive escape routes.

For Security Guards, it’s a little different. They’re lazy and skeptical, but they are paying attention. For them, you want to make sure that you deploy your main points with wedge evidence.

Whereas siege evidence is designed to go wide to cover all potential sources of escape, wedge evidence is designed to go deep to counteract the Security Guard’s passive skepticism.

The risk with a Security Guard is that you’ll present solid evidence and they won’t engage with it. Instead, they’ll shrug and say something like, “Well, everybody can find some statistic showing they’re the best.”

This is why, for your most critical points, you want to present a wedge of evidence. It’s just like a wedge of cheese. And the goal is that, no matter how the Security Guard slices the evidence, you’re still the best.

And keep in mind that these folks are cognitively lazy. Connect the dots for them. Tell them exactly how much revenue they’ll make. Don’t expect them to calculate the numbers themselves. They won’t.

Unfortunately, far from spurring passive Security Guards to become active Scrutinizers, most proposals actually push Scrutinizers into becoming passive Security Guards.

Third, you can persuade Security Guards by not looking like everyone else. Remember, they’re looking for shortcuts. So give them some. Be the only proposal that:

  • Is personalized and specific – not generic and vague
  • Uses color and graphics
  • Follows a persuasive structure
  • Shows quantified, differentiated value

Remind you of some of the proposal best practices? Is that a surprise? Security Guards are, after all, the most common personality type.

In other words, be so much more professional and clean than everybody else that there’s no comparison. Primacy and recency biases only have an effect if you’re dealing with many proposals that are roughly similar. If yours stands out, these biases aren’t nearly as important. Scrutinizers and Security Guards are why you need to insist that claims be specific and not vague.

Scrutinizers are why it’s so important to start strong, so that the very first impression you make is positive. Security Guards are why it’s equally important to finish strong with a confident call to action, so that the final impression is persuasive.

Make sure you join us next time, when we’ll look at how to make it easy for low ability people to choose you.

Cool News

A couple cool pieces of news. First, I’ll be giving a third talk at the APMP conference – a panel called “Get a Clue!” on gathering intelligence on competitors and clients with federal gurus Randy and Chris Richter. This goes right to the heart of how you personalize your proposal. It’s also how you figure out what they value so that you can show them that you offer more of it. If you haven’t seen it, the schedule for New Orleans is here.

Second, I’m thrilled to announce that Dwight Lawrence has joined us as director of marketing. Dwight is originally from South Africa. Despite being discriminated against because of apartheid, he managed to become one of Chevron‘s heads of project management for Africa and the Middle East. Pretty amazing guy! He’ll be joining me in New Orleans, so make sure and stop by and say hello to us!

Until then, I wish you much success.

Chris

Proposal Personality Profile, Part 1

Proposal Personality Profile, Part 1

In today’s BulletPoints newsletter… after dozens – or hundreds – of hours of work on your proposal or presentation, time runs out. You eventually have to submit it. It’s the day of reckoning.

And, although Sales dutifully reports back the substance of their conversations with the client, you still have no real idea who’ll be judging your submission. All you’ve really got is the RFP’s vaguely menacing claim that a team of experts from every imaginable department will be looking at it.

So how do you persuade them? How do you persuade a group of people whose composition will keep changing based on who’s on vacation, who’s swamped, who’s sick and who pissed off their superior? Check out the video to find out:

Highlights from the Video:

The key concept for us comes from jury research. Because this is the same problem attorneys face every day. A group of strangers over whom you have minimal control decide your fate. In the next few BulletPoints, we’ll look at what jury research tells us about the four main personality types and how they react to evidence.

There are many ways of classifying people. Myers Briggs. Right brain, left brain. Quizzes that tell you which Harry Potter character you are. All of those can be useful when you’re planning a proposal or sales presentation. Why? Because it’s always better to impose some sort of order on the chaos of the real world. It gives you a way to think systematically instead of just throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks.

However, the most useful framework for thinking about how people will react to your proposal is a concept called “need for cognition.” Need for cognition is a measure of how much a person enjoys and is willing to engage with complex ideas.

The reason this is so important is because need for cognition is the single biggest factor in terms of how willing somebody is to consider the evidentiary support that you put in your proposal. And as I’ve emphasized in previous BulletPoints, every distinct part in the structure of your message must have evidence.

Jury research shows that about 80% of a jury’s decision is determined by the actual evidence. It’s overwhelming. So, we better know how people react to evidence.

And what need for cognition shows is that there are two main factors that determine how people take in evidence.

The first factor is their drive to engage with complexity. Drive encompasses motivation, interest, willpower. People can have high drive or low drive.

The other factor is ability. Again, some people have high ability and some have low ability in terms of actually being able to solve puzzles and understand complexity.

If you put these factors into a 2 x 2 grid, you can start to understand why different people react in different ways.

People who are high in drive and high in ability are the ones that I call “Scrutinizers.”

Jury research shows that Scrutinizers tend to speak up in group deliberations. They have more influence in a group. They tend to be leaders. You’re frequently going to find these people in management and executive roles in companies.

Research shows that Scrutinizers are active deliberators. As they’re reading through your proposal, Scrutinizers are actually thinking about what you’re saying. They’re processing the message and testing it against other hypotheses and against what they remember of your competitors’ proposals.

Now, this doesn’t mean that they don’t make mistakes or that their search for truth is necessarily correct. In fact, studies show that Scrutinizers are the most likely to engage in “confirmation bias.” In other words, when Scrutinizers are reading through a batch of proposals, they’ll come to a decision very quickly and then they’ll selectively choose to believe or disbelieve ambiguous or conflicting evidence in a way that supports what they already think.

This is one reason why you need to support your main points with multiple types of evidence: statistics AND case studies AND third party rankings.

This is the basis of my concept of siege evidence. If you think of persuading the client like storming a castle, you can see that you can’t just attack from one direction because they’ll just sneak out the back.

If you studied medieval architecture and things like flying buttresses, you know that these alternative exits are called “yeahbuts.” Because you say, “We worked with GE and increased their win rates by 40%.” And they say, “Yeah, but maybe not every client did so well.” Or you say, “Our clients increase their win rate by 35% on average.” And they say, “Yeah, but maybe those clients aren’t anything like me.” And so on.

However, this also means that you can persuade the Scrutinizer. As a result, with Scrutinizers, the goal is to have so much support for your main points that they can’t simply keep dismissing it.

You want to provide Scrutinizers with as much diverse evidence as it takes for them to realize there’s only one way out. And that’s to choose you.

Eventually they have to engage with your point, and when a Scrutinizer engages with a well-supported point, they are willing to change their mind and support you.

What about those other three personality types from our 2 x 2 grid? Join us next time when we’ll see how to persuade the personality type that you’ll encounter most frequently – the “Security guard.”

Until then, I wish you much success.

Chris

P.S. Got forwarded this link and want to sign up to receive notifications of new BulletPoints? Sign up here.

P.P.S. Wanna see the previous BulletPoints? They’re all on YouTube here.

 

The Perfect Proposal Size

The Perfect Proposal Size

In today’s BulletPoints newsletter… does size matter? Is there a perfect length for the executive summary and body of the proposal?

Which is better? A long executive summary that gets all your points across or a short one that the reader can get through quickly? Check out today’s BulletPoints to find out.

You get a group of people together who don’t want to be there. You stuff them in a room and you don’t let them out until they come to a decision. You throw all sorts of conflicting claims and evidence at them. Maybe there’s scientific or technical information that comes from experts — information that a lot of the folks stuck in that room don’t understand.

Am I talking about a jury? Am I talking about a selection committee?

As you can see, it’s both. Indeed, jury research tells us a great deal about how people make decisions about complex questions when they’re in groups. So, in the next few BulletPoints, we’re going to talk about how the key findings of jury research, as well as my own observations as a trial lawyer, help you win more.

Any guess what the most common question is that I get when training folks to improve their proposals?

How long should it be?

Can you hear the collective sighs of the world’s proposal managers?

As it turns out, jury research can tell us the answer. A lot of people really want the proper length of an executive summary to be one page. Unfortunately, this is usually a recipe for vagueness.

And jury research says no. A complete executive summary beats a short one.

The reason why is that this is your chance to make an emotional connection with the reader. The executive summary needs to hit certain emotions. A short one simply can’t do it.

Of course, you don’t want to include lots of extraneous stuff that isn’t essential for the persuasive statement. To be persuasive, your message has to be focused. Distraction and boredom are enemies of persuasion.

Now, a 1-page cover letter hitting the high points is a good idea. It still shouldn’t be vague, but it’s OK for it to be at a high level.

But this is because the goal of the cover letter is different than the goal of the executive summary… which is different than the goal of the  body of the proposal. Let each portion of your proposal do the job it’s designed for. 

And what about the body of the proposal? People always want to make the executive summary too short, but they also want to make the body of the proposal too long.

Research shows that what jurors really hate is when you waste their time.

Just like the folks on your selection committee, most people want to do a good job. But they also want to get it over with as soon as possible.

So, if it adds no value to the reader, cut it.  And you can always drop a footnote that says “if you’re interested in this, were happy to provide you with additional information” and let them follow up with the post-submission questions. If even that is too nerve-racking for you, you should at least stuff anything that isn’t part of a clear crisp message into the appendix.

Of course, it’s one thing to put all the right stuff in front of folks, but it’s another to get the message you want into their eye holes where it’ll take up permanent residence in their brains. And in the next BulletPoints, we’ll discuss exactly what determines whether that happens.

Finally, a little bit of APMP news. The great folks organizing the APMP Bid and Proposal Con for next year in New Orleans have given me the privilege of talking about two hugely important topics. First and foremost, an entire session on differentiation. Really, when it comes down to it, if you have no differentiation, you have no leverage.

And second on content libraries. A good content library forces you and your team to stay structured and focused, which are critical for persuasiveness.

Please share your comments or concerns about differentiation or content libraries to help me make those talks as good as possible: contacting us is easy peasy.

Until next time, I wish you much success.

Chris

P.S. Got forwarded this link and want to sign up to receive notifications of new BulletPoints? Sign up here.

 

3 Brain Hacks that Make Your Proposals Win More

3 Brain Hacks that Make Your Proposals Win More

In today’s BulletPoints newsletter: 3 crazy brain hacks that make prospects buy – even though they really shouldn’t work.

Some of the tricks I talk about in the video seem like they absolutely should not work.

But they do! We look at the research behind each of these brain hacks as we talk about them in the video. And, overall, they could easily amount to increasing your wins by several percent.

So, for someone who currently wins about $100 million in contracts per year, we’re talking about $4 or $5 million more per year just by including one or two keywords. That means, in five years, the few minutes you spend watching the video will be worth around $25 million. Not too bad!

 

The tangibility bias:

If you’ve ever wondered why people buy gold and silver in the face of economic uncertainty, or why people are more likely to own a single house instead of investing in a diverse array of real estate holdings from across the country or even across the world, you were confronting the tangibility bias.

Something is tangible if it takes up space in the real world. Something you can touch or hold.

Compare that to a mutual fund. With a mutual fund, not only is it a very theoretical type of ownership that you have in all these companies, but you don’t even have the stock certificates — you have shares in a mutual fund that has the stock certificates.

And so? Several really exciting studies out of Boston University have shown that people prefer tangible things because the quality of tangibility itself provides a misleading impression of lower risk.

Are light bulbs already going off?

Let’s try it out. Would you rather invest $50,000 in actual, solid gold bars that you could sell in the case of a financial emergency, or would you rather invest the $50,000 in a security like the iShares Gold Trust ETF, which tracks gold prices?

Most people say that the physical gold feels like the safer investment. After all, if the economy goes south, you’re not left with worthless piece of paper. You have a physical product that you can trade and barter.

But… how often has the entire economic system completely and totally collapsed?

Well… never. It has literally never happened. But what does happen every single day in every single country in the world? Fires. Robberies. Burglaries. Greedy relatives. Accidents.

The same thing applies to houses. People think a single house is less risky than a security that’s diversified across all sorts of real estate.

We all know the expression “don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” and that’s the basis behind the entire field of financial economics and portfolio theory, but people don’t make decisions based on abstract reasoning about portfolio theory. A tangible product feels safer to the gut, and so that’s what they choose.

In fact, some follow-up studies show just how crazy our preference for tangibility can get.

What does this mean for your proposal or your sales presentation? Find ways to incorporate tangibility into your proposal offering as much as possible.

But you can also emphasize tangibility with services.

 

Money vs time:

Depressed proposal writers tend to think that everything comes down to price.

What everything really comes down to is actually value. The problem is that value can take many different forms — that’s why blaming price is so easy.

Two of the major components of value are money and time. Money can be increasing revenue or profit, or could be decreasing costs and fixed expenses. Time can be producing more of something, doing it faster, being more efficient, eliminating waste and removing obstacles.

Research has shown that activating thoughts about time (as opposed to money) improves people’s attitudes toward your products and makes them more likely to choose you. The reason this works is because, when you emphasize time benefits in your proposal, you’re emphasizing the experience that the prospect will have with your product or service. This increases the prospect’s sense of connection with your offering.

This is a major revelation and the proposal writer who can take advantage of it stands to win a great deal more. On top of that, it’s been replicated in dozens of studies in a wide array of situations.

It turns out that people think differently about time than money. You can’t make up for lost time. Wasting time is more painful than wasting money. Additionally, because the measure of time is much more ambiguous than the measure of money, people are more willing to spend time on high risk propositions. They don’t feel like they’re risking as much.

So this one is simple. Emphasize time savings, improving quality of life, efficiency and productivity gains, and other time-related sources of value whenever possible (except when using the third brain hack).

This doesn’t mean not to include money-related sources of value. It just means to make sure you’re also including quantified value propositions regarding time — something the vast majority of proposals lack.

 

Anthropomorphized offerings:

This one is the craziest of all.

At the University of Toronto, some clever researchers ran a series of studies to find out how the time versus money dichotomy interacts with anthropomorphized products.

What they found is that there is actually a special combination of words and images that lead to over a 20% increase in people purchasing your product. That combination is:

1) selling a functional product (something that people buy strictly for the use of it) by

2) by emphasizing monetary values (and avoiding time values) with an

3) anthropomorphized image of your product.

If you do that then, believe it or not, research shows that people will rate your product about 20% higher than they would with the exact same version but with a non-anthropomorphized image.

 

Try these out and let me know how they go. We’re already hearing some great feedback from people who put some of the tips from our previous BulletPoints into practice. And I can’t wait to hear feedback on the successes you get from this one.

Got forwarded this link and want to sign up for BulletPoints yourself? Sign up here.

Wanna see if the jokes in the previous BulletPoints are funnier than these ones? Check them out here.

In the meantime, happy holidays! May Santa put a whole lot of wins in your stocking!

Happy Proposaloween!

Happy Proposaloween!

In today’s BulletPoints: we use monster movies to explain why prospects make the proposal choices they do.

We also look at the awesome results of our industry survey to help you decide where to focus your proposal improvement efforts.

Thank you again to all the great folks who completed our industry survey on where the biggest ROI from proposal improvement is to be found.

The final results to the question “How important is the following to proposal success” were:

#1 Differentiating ourselves in ways the prospect values so we don’t end up competing on price 9.7
#2 Including concrete, quantified benefits instead of the usual vague claims 9.3
#3 Ensuring the prospect actually sees our message by structuring our proposals more persuasively 9.3
#4 Delivering a memorable message clearly and concisely 9.0
#5 Making the prospect feel comfortable with us by improving our evidence, including case studies 8.8

#6 Using more graphics to stop the skimming and get the prospect more engaged 8.5
#7 Developing the ability to independently uncover client problems and goals when sales fails to do it 8.5
#8 Being more client-centered so the client doesn’t get annoyed and see us as self-serving 8.3
#9 Thinking bigger about the opportunity and how we can add more value 8.2
#10 Responding to RFP questions more effectively 8.2

#11 Staying on top of volume by creating content libraries of material to be able to quickly produce persuasive proposals 8.0
#12 Saving time down the line by kicking off new opportunities more effectively 7.7
#13 Improving the proposal process, such as sticking to (or instituting) a level-of-effort analysis 7.6
#14 Continuous learning and training to stay fresh and avoid bad habits 7.6
#15 Working effectively with virtual teams 7.0

Comments? Agree? Disagree? Send us an email and let us know!

Got forwarded this email and want to sign up for BulletPoints yourself? Sign up at http://ChrisSant.com/BulletPoints/

Get Paid What You’re Worth

Get Paid What You’re Worth

In our first ever BulletPoints video, we look at brand new research out of Harvard and Berkeley that shows why clients don’t pay you what you’re worth… and how to write proposals that ensure they do.

Take the survey: